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The Time I Failed at Interviewing at CNN

After college, like just about every college grad, I was looking for work. I had worked during school breaks at WebMD for a few years and had a little other work experience as an office assistant. My first task was to ask WebMD if there was a full-time position. There wasn't. They didn't hire new grads anyway. But they did have a little freelance work I could take on while I job hunted, so I gladly took the offer.

I thought to myself, I bet the WebMD brand would at least get me some phone calls, so I applied everywhere I could think of that seemed relevant: American Cancer Society, Children's Hospital, even the CDC. And I got the phone calls, but they all wanted more experience. Sigh.

Then a coworker at WebMD mentioned that CNN hired "VJ"s right out of college, and that was how she got started. A VJ, or video journalist, is an entry-level position, but it's in really high demand, so you really have to be impressive to get in. I was told the first six months to a year were very demanding, with random hours and no holidays. But once you got promoted up, you could move around in the company. I am not one to love the news, but CNN was a great name, so I sent in my resume with my coworker's name as a reference. That name got me a phone call and an interview.

I bought a new suit from Ann Taylor and, very nervously, made my way to the CNN building in downtown Atlanta.

So I got to the interview and sat down with a very nice man who told me how the interview would go, what the position was, etc. Part of the job involved being able to look at photos and identify important people in them for news segments. You had to look at something and immediately know who, where, what, and whether it was important or not.

I already knew I was in over my head. Yes, I'd done some prep work but you can't exactly memorize a world's worth of political facts in a short amount of time. So he began asking me facts: Three branches of government? I knew that one. Leader of (X country)? Got it. Whew. That was a lucky one. Went through the easier questions without any major hiccups. Then things got real.


If this country's leader dies, what's the name of the person who is next in line? No, it wasn't England. It was a South American country that I can't remember now, but anyway, I had no idea. I smiled and told him as much. No sense in making up crap. We had several questions like that. I felt my face turning red and my ego deflating. I had no idea who was important, why, where, how, or to what extent. I didn't know the senators from California. I forgot who was the secretary of state two presidential terms ago.

I left the interview quite dejected. There was really no salvaging it.

I got an email about a week later that they wouldn't be making an offer. People asked how the interview went. I mean, interviewing with CNN was kind of a big deal. Yeah... I said it "didn't work out" or "wasn't a good fit." And by that I meant "I fail."

Oh well.


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